The Kindness of Strangers

A quick catch-up for those of you who aren’t connected with me on Facebook: my dad, mom, and sister all tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-December. Dad was hospitalized immediately and passed nine days later, which was devastating. We haven’t yet begun to deal with the staggering level of his loss; Mom and my sister were admitted in the two days after Dad’s passing. Sister was discharged after about a four day stay: to be honest, I currently have to ask Jim or look at my phone to have any understanding of what time, day, or date it is. What is time, anyway? Mom was discharged after about a six day stay. They’re both home now but have a long road to full recovery. Now you’re up to speed.

When I got the call that my mom was ready to go home, I headed over to the hospital to pick her up (along with an N-95 mask and gloves; though she wasn’t considered contagious at this point we are all still concerned about safety and will continue to be until we are all vaccinated). The pick-up routine at this hospital is that you park in a 15-minute spot at the Patient Discharge doors and call upstairs to let the patient know you’re there. At that point the staff does the final things they need to do with the patient (in my sister’s and mom’s case, hook them up to the portable oxygen tanks for the ride home) and wheel them down.

I parked and made the call. Shortly after that a woman approached the passenger side of my car (she was masked). My car was wide open and when I noticed that she wanted to talk to me I smiled from behind my mask and gave her a little wave with one gloved hand. She said that she was there to visit her mom in the hospital and that she was told to go in via the Patient Discharge doors, but the doors didn’t open automatically. She wondered if I knew anything about this procedure and that perhaps it was different on New Year’s Day.

I told her that I didn’t know anything about that but my mom was being brought down momentarily and she could definitely ask the person who wheeled her down. The woman thanked me and walked back over to wait by the door.

I started my engine and drove around the circle, reparking myself just outside the door so we could get my mom into my car right away. While I waited, the woman said to me, “I saw the most beautiful rainbow on my way over here. I had to take a picture of it!”

I replied, “Really? Can I see it?”

She nodded, pulled it up on her phone, and held her phone towards me (still at a safe distance) so I could take a look.

Suddenly I felt an overwhelming need to have a copy of that picture. I have been coping with all of the turmoil over the past couple of weeks by hanging onto every sliver of positivity and gratitude that I can muster. I waited until the rain was over to come and get my mom because getting her in and out of my car with oxygen was going to be easier that way, but I missed a beautiful rainbow that just happened to arrive on the day Mom was going home, signifying the end of our hospital era and the beginning of our recovery (and grieving) era.

I said, “That really was a gorgeous rainbow. Listen…I know this is weird but would you be willing to text that to me? It’s just that my dad passed on Friday and I just got my sister home two days ago and now my mom is coming home and it feels…important.”

“Sure! What’s your number?”

She texted it to me immediately. I thanked her, and just then my mom was wheeled out and I got busy with her. When I walked back around my car to open the driver’s side door, I looked up and the woman was on her way into the hospital.

An hour later, I texted her back. “Thank you so much for this picture. Happy New Year and I hope your mom goes home soon.”

She replied, “Thank YOU! I’m grateful my gift was a gift for you as well. I’m sorry, did you say you lost your dad LAST Friday?”

I confirmed, and then this:

This exchange was something memorable and good in a two week time period that has been a complete dumpster fire of the worst kind. This woman’s kindness was a balm (temporary, but I’ll take it) and I appreciated our brief meeting–even though I do not know her name–more than I can express.

I always recommend talking to strangers, if you’re an adult and in a safe place, of course. Usually at least one of you will get something out of the conversation. When the stars (or rainbows?) align, both of you do. We need more of this in 2021, please, Universe.

3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.